By Jackson Creech
After finishing last season with one of the worst records in the team’s history, ECU Men’s Club Rugby turned things for the fall semester.
Coming off a down year, the team set out to accomplish one main goal by the end of the season: make the national tournament. Easier said than done, the road to nationals is no cake walk and many people doubted ECU Club Rugby along the way. “People have really been sleeping on us. We’ve been an underdog a lot this season,” said Club Rugby President, Austin Rabah. “We’re coming off a season where we didn’t do too well. We went 2-2-1 and that’s the worst ECU has done in a while.”
To make the cut for nationals, teams must first place in the top spot of their conference, which ECU did to finish the season. Following a loss in the semifinals of the state championships to nationally ranked Furman, ECU made the national tournament as a wildcard team after beating Coastal Carolina in a close bout in late October.
For some, hundreds of hours of shedding blood, sweat and tears have been spent over their time playing with the club and making the tournament meant a lot to them. “We have a lot of guys who have been on the team for a long time. Some will be graduating this semester or next and we wanted to make it to nationals for them,” said Rabah.
The team finished the season with seven wins and two losses, their best mark in the last four years. What sparked such a turnaround from their two-win season a semester ago? Rabah’s teammate David Moore attributes some of the team’s success to their strong work ethic. “We come out to practice every day fired up. Everyone out there is eager to get better,” said Moore. “A lot of the guys on the team are not only going to practice, but they’re putting in work outside of practice to get better. That’s what really makes a difference.” This attitude will set them up to be successful. Rabah identified two big-play threats that were new to the team this year and helped them greatly. First, the return of team captain Heath Sorkin was huge for the team. He returned from an ACL injury that sidelined him for an entire season. His impact was felt immediately and Rabah said he came back better than ever. Secondly, community college transfer Rob Johns, or Magic Man Rob as the team refers to him, provided much needed energy and scoring for the team. Playing a position similar to that of quarterback, the shifty rookie was the Pirates’ leading scorer.
Unfortunately, the team’s season came to a close with a loss to NC State in the first round of the national tournament, but they are primed and ready for another outstanding season during the spring. Go Pirates!